Applying Farr’s Law to project the drug overdose mortality epidemic in the United States
Unintentional drug overdose has increased markedly in the past two decades and surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury mortality in many states. The purpose of this study was to understand the trajectory of the drug overdose epidemic in the United States by applying Farr’s Law. Farr’s “law of epidemics” and the Bregman-Langmuir back calculation method were applied to United States drug overdose mortality data for the years 1980 through 2011 to project the annual death rates from drug overdose from 2012 through 2035. From 1980–2011, annual drug overdose mortality increased from 2.7 to 13.2 deaths per 100,000 population. The projected drug overdose mortality would peak in 2016–2017 at 16.1 deaths per 100,000 population and then decline progressively until reaching 1.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 2035. The projected data based on Farr’s Law suggests that drug overdose mortality in the United States will decline in the coming years and return to the 1980 baseline level approximately by the year 2034.
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